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Room for experimentation

Late last week, I wrote about my change in approach to setting up the weekly goals and schedule. While I used to try and fill up every open slot and make everything I do a task, I am now defining only the things I need to get done in the week and leave the rest of the time open. Makes my life less robotic. And in just a week, I'm realising that this comes with some advantages.

One of which is room for experimentation.

Time is a valuable resource. Both in our lives and in the organizations that we work. And successful organizations encourage their employees to experiment. And more importantly, create an environment that enables them to do so.

If everything that gets done in an organization is evaluated based on the impact it generates, then nobody will experiment. Only things that have predictable outcomes get picked up and done. And the thing with predictable outcomes is that they never result in jumps in growth. There is no paradigm shift. There is no innovation. There is merely incremental tuning of what already exists. And once this mindset sets in, it is, like most cultural things, hard to change.

The nature of experiments is that they often fail. Because they have unpredictable outcomes. Because they are something new and not run of the mill. But when they succeed, they can potentially result in a leap in growth, a step up in the growth graph rather than an incline with a low angle, a paradigm shift.

And this is what VCs are doing when they invest in startups. They are funding experiments. They could have been investing in government bonds to see a steady increase in their fortunes, but they are taking bigger bets. And that is resulting in innovation for all of us at a faster pace than government sponsored projects.

And it is the same in the organizations we work. If the projects that get approved only fall under the predictable outcomes category, then it is the equivalent of investing in government bonds. Sure, we will continue to see steady incremental growth. But a competitor that funds experiments will over time leapfrog us and leave the incline of our growth graph reducing and tending to zero. Or worse, negative as they eat into our market share.

This is what is popularly known as disruption.

But many of us don't disrupt our own lives, our own skills. We are happy climbing the incremental incline and are fearful of spending our time experimenting for fear of failure.

As more and more jobs are being lost to automation, the talk on universal basic income is intensifying. And only those who experiment and disrupt their own skills and the value they add will be the ones ahead of the curve. And I like the idea of a universal basic income because the goal is precisely to allow everyone the room to experiment and not worry about their basic necessities. 

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